Monday, November 15, 2010

37 Things I Want to do Before I Turn 38: Make Gnocchi

Oh, gnocchi. You little flour and potato (sometimes) dumplings from Italy. You were eaten by the ancient Roman Legions while on campaign. You are made expertly by Italian grandmothers everywhere. And you are a mystery to me. Until now.

Turns out (just like making pasta from scratch) that making gnocchi is pretty simple and requires no complicated ingredients. The only thing that kept me from making it so long is that you need a simple tool, a potato ricer, to mash the potatoes extra fine.
Tacoma is not known for its gourmet kitchen shops. The one we had on our cute little 6th ave shopping district went out of business last year and even the chain kitchen shop in the mall went out of business too. Sure I could have driven up to Seattle and spent $40 on one at Sur La Table. Sure I could have ordered it online. But I wanted it now. Fred Meyers, no. Target, no (even though they sell them online.) On a whim, I popped into TJMaxx and presto! a lovely all stainless steel ricer, made in Italy, was waiting for me for only $7.99!

Of course, my first foray into gnocchi was not traditional. I saw this Pumpkin Gnocchi recipe from Greg Atkinson over on Not Martha's blog and remembered we had a little pie pumpkin from our organic food delivery and decided to give it a whirl.

You start by cooking your pumpkin. You can't see it very well, but I have the pumpkin in a steamer basket with only a cup of water in the pan. Covered, it cooked in about 10 minutes.

Next, let it cool a little and then use your glorious ricer. It produces a perfect smooth and creamy texture. (I guess this is how you make baby food.)

Let it cool a little more before adding an egg yolk, salt, and your flour. Turns out I had too much pumpkin and had to add a lot more flour to combat the stickiness.

Then comes the fun part: playing with dough.

I divided it up into 8 sectionss.

Then I rolled out the logs and divided them into 12 pieces.
I should have left them like this. I checked several cookbooks and of course they all had different suggestions. Greg Atkinson said to make little pillows. Ethan Stowell wants you to use a special wooden tool to roll the gnocchi across to make the hash marks. Or he said you could use a fork. (No, I could not. They looked awful.) Tom Douglas said leave 'em like they are. I wish I had followed his advice. It would have been much simpler!

Here are my ugly pillowed dumplings. The forked ones looked even worse!
I should have left well enough alone with Greg's recipe instead of looking in the other cookbooks because they all disagreed on cooking time as well! Most recipes say when they float to the top of the boiling water, they are done. Tom Douglas said they need another minute or three before removing them. It is hard to keep track of which ones just floated to the surface and which ones were ready!

All that worry and they turned out just fine. I cut way back on the fresh sage leaves Greg recommends and it still overwhelmed the pumpkin taste. Simple pumpkin gnocchi in a sage butter sauce with salt and pepper and freshly grated Parmesan. YUM!

I just noticed that the first two things I have done on my 37 Things I Want to do Before I Turn 38 were both cooking things. And I was planning on the 3 layer cake next! (Maybe I should just make a cooking list.)

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